Quote of the Day: ‘Lunch is for pussies’
Last month, I interviewed the wonderfully verbose, brutally honest, and (slightly) acerbic Rachel Johnson, prolific writer, who has written for the Financial Times, the Spectator, the Sunday Times, (and more), ex-editor of the Lady magazine, and novelist who wrote ‘Notting Hell,’ on the adulterers of Notting Hill’s private gardens (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Notting-Hell-Rachel-Johnson/dp/0141020830). She is now coming out with the third book in her trilogy, ‘Fresh Hell,’ (after Notting Hell and Shire Hell) where her characters are back in Notting Hill with subterranean basement renovations et al.
Rachel is known for not mincing her words and not being controversy (or publicity) shy, or shall we just call it blunt, brutal honesty. You could equate that to her not really giving a toss about what people think about her. Good on her. She has raised three children, (Ludo, Charlotte and Oliver) is married to Ivo Dawnay and lives in Notting Hill.
(I would have loved to have been sitting at one of her family breakfasts with her 3 brothers, a mix of witty, entertaining banter, attention-seeking hounds, intellectual and political conversations, with a smatter of creativity thrown in with her painter mother, her brother Boris (who happens to be Mayor of London, for the international readers who may not know, and who may be PM one day, he has my vote!), Leo the green-man-environmentalist/PWC partner, and Jo, writer/politician/Chief of Policy for David Cameron. This just shows how much influence parents’ careers and guidance can shape their children’s careers: Her father was an author and politician, and pretty much all of them are one or the other or both).
1. What’s Your Story? How did you get to where you are?
Not really sure where I am or how I got here! I was the first female graduate trainee at the FT (Financial Times) after I graduated from Oxford University. Later, after I worked for the BBC, I moved to Brussels and Washington DC and eventually worked as a Freelance columnist. I couldn’t continue being a Stay-At-Home-Mum, at one point I had 3 under 4. When I returned to work in an office, it was one of my happiest moments. For a while, I couldn’t stop working. At one point I had 12 columns to write in one month but then the internet happened and then columns were dead, everyone started reading their news on the internet instead. I became the Editor of the Lady magazine, which they did a documentary on, ‘The Lady and the Revamp’ (Where she was famously caught saying about the magazine ‘In the real world this is a piddling little magazine that nobody cares about. Or buys,” before pausing to add: “I don’t mean that.”). I’ve also written a number of books (including ‘Notting Hell’, which was quite successful). The TV rights of my book ‘A Diary of the Lady’ were just bought by the guys who do TOWIE/Hollyoaks, basically the TV shows that people actually watch. It even went to auction. I am now writing a column for the Mail on Sunday.
2. What are you currently working on right now? What are your current projects?
Apart from the Mail on Sunday column, I’ve just finished a new novel which is coming out this June, ‘Fresh Hell’. It has just gone to copy. It’s another novel based in Notting Hill and has some of the same characters, it features some subterranean renovations. Apart from that, I am going to Burma and writing some travel pieces on it. (Lucky woman!)
Fresh Hell Cover Image
3. What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Just Do It. It is a lot of hard work. Try to keep your voice fresh and alive. Stay authentic.
4. How do you become a successful writer?
I don’t know. Just look at Zoella, who sold millions of books in her first week. It’s all about the internet nowadays. (When I say that she has 8 books under her belt, isn’t that success, she gives me a tired smile, saying, ‘it’s difficult, you don’t want to disappoint everyone, your family, your friends, your agent, your publisher etc…’ where for a brief minute she shows her vulnerability, her self deprecation and a sensitive side not often seen in her usual sharp tongued retorts).
5. How do you balance it all, family/work balance?
It’s all been a blur. My three children are grown up now, so I can finally spend some ‘me time.’ But I work hard. I get up and I work all day. I don’t stop apart to walk my dog. Lunch is for pussies. Get a life!
6. What is the best parenting advice you have?
None of it really matters. Here’s a list:
1) Everything is a Stage
2) No one asks where you go to school
3) Nothing you can do can change that anyway
4) The less you do, the more you do
5) Over-parenting is a form of under-parenting
6) Never comment on their school reports
7) You can’t do it for them. I could go on…
7. What are your favourite places in Notting Hill?
Portobello Pizza is one of my favourites. The Grocer on Elgin. Pedlars. Portobello Road for veg & fruit. I was brought to Notting Hill by my mum in 1979. She still lives here. When my husband asked where I wanted to live I said, Clarendon Road, Elgin Crescent or Lansdowne Road, I live on all three! (She is posh after all. And has been called a ‘rich bitch from Notting Hill’ by some).
8. What are you currently reading?
‘The Iceberg’ by Marian Coutts (a memoir on her husband’s death) ‘Churchill’ by Boris Johnson and ‘Burmese Days’ by George Orwell, since I am going to Burma soon.
9. Since you mention Boris, can I ask about him or is he off limits?
No, not interested.
10. What advice would you give to your younger self?
Don’t try so hard.
11. What was the proudest moment of your life?
The birth of my three children. Ludo is 21, Charlotte is 20, and Oliver is 18.